It may seem easy to shrug off stretching before and after a particularly grueling workout when you’re tired, hungry or feel like you already got plenty of movement in. But beyond the surface of what you may feel, stretching is an imperative part of setting the stage for optimal recovery. However, by stretching you allow your body the chance to gradually slow down your heart rate to its normal state, cool down effectively, and more effective break down of lactic acid – all of which set the stage for muscle recovery and repair, improve future range of motion and flexibility, and begin to increase blood circulation back to the muscles.
We’ve compiled 10 of our favorite, popular stretches that give your whole body a little extra love and closure it needs after a workout.
1. HAMSTRING STRETCH
Nearly all workouts include some sort of leg movement, so this is an easy stretch you can do to help relieve tightened leg muscles especially after long cardio sessions or kickboxing. The legs also play a role in a lot of tension that can be felt in the lower back. so stretching these areas can provide prevention and relief of flares to the sciatic nerve as well.
2. ARM AND WRIST STRETCH
The arms, and especially the wrists, are often overlooked after many routines. The wrist is one of the most complex joints in the body and allows a wide range of movement particularly for bodyweight and upper body exercises and movements. If you have any activity involving push-ups, planks, mountain climbers or a lot of circuit training or bootcamp exercises, these stretches can be so vital in maintaining and improving wrist mobility, as well as providing some recovery to the upper and lower arms.
3. CHILD’S POSE
The Child’s Pose, also known as ‘Balsana’ as it is referred to in Yoga, is one of the best stretches immediately following any type of workout. In addition to relaxing and calming the brain and the body, as well as increasing flexibility, it and decompresses the spine, hips, core, ankles while providing relief to the back and neck.
4. SIDE STRETCH
A good side stretch is another great movement to supplement at the end of any workout. Side stretches help lengthen and stretch the intercostal muscles between the ribs and abdomen, so it can be especially beneficial to include them after any core workout. They also work to improve the shortening of muscles that can occur from poor posture and long periods of sitting, and therefore is recommended if you have any extended period of sitting in your work or as part of any routine in your lifestyle.
5. SEATED SPINAL TWIST
The seated Spinal Glute Twist not only encourages spine mobility, but can actually help aid digestion, and stretch the glutes. The pose actually helps lengthen the spine which decompresses the vertebrae, giving an energy lift all while stretching out the glute and the hip. This stretch is sure to feel fantastic after any sort of HIIT, cardio, kickboxing or bootcamp-style workout.
The butterfly is the greatest stretch you can do for all the adductor muscles of the inner thigh, and also serves as a great hip opener. It’s also helpful in relieving muscle tightness after long periods of sitting, and also supports flexibility and muscle stiffness with the groin and lower back.
7. HIP FLEXOR LUNGE
The hip flexor lunge has a few variations. We love it because it is one fo the best hip openers that includes the leg muscles. calves and glutes, all while giving you an opportunity to stretch your arms simultaneously.
8. SIDE LUNGE STRETCH
The side lunge is a nice switch from the regular lunges, allowing you to touch on the lower body muscles from a different angle than the regular forward and backward stretches that often neglect the full range of movement used throughout your workouts. It can also add a little extra sculpting and toning to your legs.
9. COBRA POSE
The Cobra Pose, (also known as Bhujangasana in Yoga), is a great stretch for the core and back. It stretches the spine and adds strength, also giving the shoulders, arms, abs and glutes all a chance for additional toning. It is also known to improve symptoms of sciatica
10. STANDING QUADRICEP STRETCH
The Quad Stretch is an important movement after any routines involving a lot of leg movement. Stretching these muscles can reduce injury and potential for soreness, as well as improve range of motion while increasing circulation.